Parliamentary speeches

Operation of Parliament through COVID-19

September 02, 2021

I'm very hopeful that the issues with the member for Maribyrnong will be resolved. If you could perhaps indicate when they are, I will take my seat at precisely that point. I will also say at this point that I'm conscious that I, like most of us here, have been away for quite some time and I want to acknowledge two things really.

Firstly, you, Mr Speaker, and the staff of the parliament, have enabled our parliament to continue sitting at a very important time when there have been very considerable challenges—technical challenges and other logistical challenges—as a consequence of the pandemic. I know that it matters that Australia's parliament has been sitting through this and that we've been able to hold the government to account. The government has been able to pass some legislation that has been urgent in terms of providing critical economic supports. But, otherwise, we've been able to carry on the business of Australian democracy. We've been able to speak up for our communities, in particular the communities that I represent, which are presently under lockdown. I'm very conscious that I am here to give a voice to them, to speak to their concerns and, with all of my colleagues, to do my best to share their understanding of their circumstances right now and their sense of what can come on the other side of this pandemic. I think the challenge that we all need to rise to in this place right now is to understand what different communities are going through and to think about how a national government and all of us in our national parliament can allow people to come together to see that all of the necessary supports are in place. Sadly, that hasn't always been the case. In particular, I know the economic supports that were in place through last year's lockdowns in Victoria would have made such a difference to so many people who are struggling back home right now.

But I also want to say this: when so many essential workers whom I represent who give me the privilege of coming here and speaking for them are undertaking their work, whether it's in logistics, particularly in health care settings and in supermarkets, I think it's important that they see us doing our work. It's also important that I acknowledge the way in which the parliament has enabled those of us who, for a variety of reasons, aren't able to be here to still speak of our communities, as, hopefully, the member for Maribyrnong will be able to do in the very, very near future. We have shown that our parliament can come together—

Mr Shorten interjecting

GILES: I think we are about to show that our parliament can function in a 21st century manner, and I very much look forward to hearing from my friend the member for Maribyrnong.